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Jazz band performs

Music program makes mark on and off campus

Yakima Valley College’s music students and faculty had a full calendar of activities during spring quarter, including performances on campus and throughout the Yakima Valley, as well as trips to Seattle.

On May 12, the YVC Jazz Band performed their spring Latin Jazz Concert to a nearly full Kendall Auditorium. Joining the student musicians were guest artists from the band Sonando, a regular performer at Latin jazz festivals, clubs and concerts throughout the Pacific Northwest, who spent the day rehearsing and having conversation together.

“This provided a chance for YVC students to not only learn and make music with professional musicians, but also to get to know each other as people and create the kind of interpersonal connections that are the true heart of music making,” said Music Instructor Jeff Norwood.

Following their spring concert, the YVC Jazz Band travelled to Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle, one of the nation’s most esteemed jazz clubs, to hear Grammy Award-winning Latin jazz artist Poncho Sanchez on May 26. Experiencing the energy of a jazz club performance can be a profound experience, Norwood said.

“Listening to music, attending live performances is part of the process of becoming a better musician, especially in the jazz tradition,” he noted. “It is really cool for the students to be able to hear and see world class musicians making music in the same style and tradition that they were just performing a few weeks earlier.”

Norwood said that one of his students commented on seeing Pancho Sanchez and his bandmates joking and having fun on stage during the performance, and how that reflected the importance of relationships in making music.

“My hope is that all YVC music students will continue to foster musical friendships and engage in music making to enrich their own lives and to share with others,” he said.

Choir as base of Space Needle
The YVC Choir sang at the Space Needle and Waterfront Park during its tour to Seattle.

Meanwhile, the YVC Choir wrapped up its year with a spring tour that included performances at local high schools and other venues in the Yakima Valley and Seattle.

On May 24 and 25, the choir performed and worked with high school choir members at Naches, Selah, East Valley, Wapato, West Valley and Eisenhower. YVC singers then traveled Central Washington University to perform and work with Nicole Lamartine, director of choral studies at Central, on May 26 before heading to Seattle.

On May 27, the choir sang at the Space Needle and Waterfront Park, while also visiting the Seattle Aquarium and taking a cruise along the city’s waterfront.

“With a motto of, ‘On the Road Again,’ we did just that,” said Steven Slusher, director of choral/vocal activities. “Being on the road and visiting the high schools was such a rewarding experience for both my students and the high school students. We got to make music together in a very relaxed atmosphere. 

“Our trip to CWU and Seattle was enlightening for my students, as they got to experience life and performing outside of YVC and Yakima. This will hopefully help them make more informed decisions about their future.”

The tour concluded on June 1 with a concert in Kendall Hall on the Yakima Campus.

Slusher said music performed by the choir this quarter was influenced by choral music popular on Tiktok, such as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” songs by PINKZEBRA and the famous sea chanty “The Wellerman.”

This spring, the music program also celebrated the news that Slusher will assume the role of chorusmaster for the Yakima Symphony Chorus in its 2023-24 performance season. Slusher takes on the role after several years as the group’s assistant chorusmaster.

Choir members rehearse
YVC Choir members work with singers at Yakima's Eisenhower High School during their spring tour.

“Steven’s talents and collaborative spirit have served the YSC well over the past several years,” said David Rogers, executive director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. “He has nurtured partnerships between YSC and YVC both on the Capitol Theatre stage and on the YVC campus.

“There is no one more qualified or better positioned than Steven to understand and respond to the current needs and capabilities of the ensemble, and to leverage the resources in our community and region on behalf of the next stage in the growth and development of our chorus.”